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Euro 2008 final

FCB five in pursuit of crowning glory

After claiming Bundesliga, DFB German Cup and League Cup honours with Bayern, Germany’s FCB five of Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marcell Jansen and Lukas Podolski could yet top the lot with victory in the European championship final against Spain in Vienna on Sunday evening.

“We’re delighted we’ve made it to the final, and we know that if we perform, we can win the match,” declared a confident Lahm, scorer of a dramatic winning goal in last week’s 3-2 semi-final victory over Turkey. The Germans are appearing in their sixth continental final and have previously won the trophy in 1972, 1980 and 1996.

Ballack a major doubt

However, the mood in the Germany camp darkened on the eve of the game with news of an injury to Michael Ballack. The former FCB playmaker missed training on Friday and Saturday with a calf problem and is rated very doubtful for Sunday’s showdown. “There’s still hope Michael Ballack will be fit to play, although it’s not very likely,” a distinctly pensive coach Joachim Löw remarked.

“We’ll have to give serious thought as to what to do if he can’t play,” Löw continued, reporting that Ballack was receiving “round the clock“ treatment for the injury. Ballack faces a late fitness test shortly before the evening kick-off. Löw named two potential candidates to deputise for the potentially absent captain, Bremen’s future Bayern midfielder Tim Borowski and Schweinsteiger.

Track record of success

If Schweinsteiger moves into the centre from the right, Clemens Fritz may resume duty on the flank, whereas Borowski has already covered for Ballack, in the 2006 World Cup opening match against Costa Rica for example. Ballack’s team-mates remain hopeful that their talismanic leader will be declared fit: “You really need someone like him in a final,” commented former Munich youth Thomas Hitzlsperger.

Germany, ranked fifth in the world, take on the fourth-placed Spanish in front of a 51,428 full house at the Happel-Stadion, the most significant and momentous meeting yet between two of the great footballing nations. However, the north Europeans are pursuing a seventh major trophy, whereas the Iberians have just one meaningful triumph to their name, the 1964 European title some 44 years ago.